Stories: On the Farm
Ian and Anne Brimblecombe - St. George, QLD, Australia

Seeing the Light on Renewable Energy

Prompted by an energy expenditure that had been climbing by around 10 percent per year coupled with concerns about climate change, Australian cotton irrigators Ian and Anne Brimblecombe installed solar panels to power their irrigation pumps.

The Brimblecombes have owned “Burgorah” at St. George in Queensland for 15 years. They irrigate 320 hectares of cotton with water harvested on-farm and from peak flows in a tributary of the Balonne River. Water is stored in two dams, with evaporative losses a main area of improvement.

As of 2018, 100kW of capacity is generated from 400 solar panels, and Ian has explored floating them to allow for any future expansion and reduce evaporation while generating power. He believes there will be more interest in solar use as electricity becomes more expensive and batteries cheaper, with potential for significant savings in the next five years.

The Brimblecombes were initially attracted to solar a few years earlier. It was very expensive to install and not a popular choice, but the feed-in tariff encouraged their investment to gain some control over rising input costs. Any electricity returned to the grid receives 44c/kW, reducing the power bill and contributing to climate change management. “Burgorah” is on the list for an energy audit across the farm, which will look ahead as far as 15 years. A far more detailed assessment of irrigation pumping is currently underway with the assistance of Australian Government funding.

Their investment in solar – and willingness to investigate new technology like floating panels – made the Brimblecombes ideal hosts for CottonInfo’s Big Day Out, held at “Burgorah” in February 2015. Speakers at the day covered topics including solar power and energy audits, and visitors were able to inspect the “Burgorah” solar-power installations and talk to the Brimblecombes about the role of renewable energy in cotton farming.

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